ARLINGTON, TX—Vanderbilt did something Friday at the Prairie View Invitational that few other programs likely could – rest a three-time All-American the entire day and still go undefeated with a pin count that leads the prestigious event.
The Commodores knocked down 5,080 pins – an average of 1,016 – in defeating host Prairie View, 8th ranked Maryland-Eastern Shore, 6th rated Tulane, Texas Southern and No. 5 Sam Houston and have a slim lead over McKendree heading into the second of three tournament days. Ten of the nation’s top 11 rated teams are in action.
Vanderbilt looked poised and confident in navigating the subtle lane variations of the International Training and Research Center, home to Team USA among other notables.
The lineup of Jordan Newham, Angelique Dalesandro, Adel Wahner, Samantha Gainor and Maria Bulanova went wire-to-wire. The senior star Kristin Quah continues to be used judiciously by the coaching staff, slowed by an uncommon wrist issue that allows her to practice and compete without fear of further damage but also gets fatigued when overused.
There were no weak links in the Black and Gold chain but Bulanova was particularly splendid. The junior anchor was all over the strike zone and sharp with her spare shooting, perhaps having one of her best outings of the season. She often closed games on a strike binge, making good games even better.
Bulanova’s play encapsulated Vanderbilt’s. Whereas the Dores had a tough time two weeks ago creating strikes and finally, converting spares, there was little of that on this warm Texas afternoon. The Commodores went on frequent runs of three or four strikes in a row and did a solid job of filling frames when all the pins didn’t drop on the first ball.
“We did what the lanes told us to do during the first three games,” Associate Head Coach Josie Barnes said. “They were pretty simple moves and we were making good shots.”
A key element of the day’s success came in the fourth game against Texas Southern on lanes 1 and 2, a pair that Barnes said “play different”. Vanderbilt muddled through the first two of the five Baker games with scores of 181-165 and Barnes called for a quick pow-wow.
“We made an adjustment and the first half of Game 3 went well but we fell off in the last five frames,” Barnes said. “The team said they needed to trust the change and I challenged them to trust themselves.” That newfound trust resulted in games of 223-227 to rescue the match into a respectable 959 effort and was a springboard to the Game 5 win over Sam Houston.
“Josie getting them to trust and buy into the change had a significant impact on how we finished,” Head Coach John Williamson emphasized. “That was big.”
There should be no chance of over-confidence Saturday for the six scheduled team games against teams rated 1,2,4,6,7 and 11. That gauntlet of powerhouses makes the tournament both enticing and sobering. Stephen F. Austin is first up when play begins at 9:30 a.m.
All games are being live streamed on bowl.tv, found on the bowl.com site.